Awakened by spring, bears ramble into backyards

Like them or not, they’re just another sign of spring: bears rising from hibernation, rambling into people’s backyards in their hunt for food.

On Monday night, a bear sighting in the backyard of a home on Country Village Lane in Sudbury was reported to police around 8:45 p.m. Bear sightings are fairly common in the western suburb, a Sudbury police dispatcher said, and the animal was probably going after birdseed.

Nothing happened during Monday’s incident, unlike the night prior in Auburn where a resident shot and killed a bear that was eating birdseed in his backyard. He has since been charged with killing and baiting a bear, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

So far this year, the Massachusetts Environmental Police have received roughly 25 reports of bears in residential neighborhoods statewide, said Reggie Zimmerman, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

This month, bears will begin to emerge from hibernation, seeking food and mating partners.

“We’ll start to see more activity around this time,” Zimmerman said.

In 2012, the Environmental Police received about 400 bear reports, Zimmerman said.

Black bears, relatively common in the Bay State, have been increasing their numbers and territory for the past 30 years, according to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website.

They are common in western Massachusetts, moderately common in the central region, but rare or absent in eastern areas.

The bear population has grown from about 100 in the early 1970s to about 3,000 in 2005, according to the Fisheries and Wildlife website, as a result of increased legal protection, changes in forest structure and composition, and increased availability of supplemental fall foods.

To limit unwanted contact with bears, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife recommends taking down bird feeders between April 1 and December 1, especially ones containing suet or sunflower seeds, and cleaning up spilled seeds.